There were supposedly some 113,000 tourists in the Cancun area the weekend before Easter, with a 95 percent hotel occupancy level. I’m sure a fair chunk of those pinkish folks stepped away from the buffet table long enough to visit Chichen Itza. Meanwhile, the four of us said “screw that” and went to Ek Balam while making our way over to the Gulf Coast near Merida.
Never heard of Ek Balaam (sometimes written as Ek’ Balam or Ek Balaam)? You’re not alone. After you get past the big draws, most Maya sites are blissfully unknown and empty, even fantastic Uxmal. The funny thing is, Ek Balaam is actually a tad closer to Cancun than jam-packed Chichen Itza. We struck out from Valladolid about 9:30 and by 9:55 we had paid our $2.75 each (1/2 that for kids) and were inside.
It wasn’t completely empty—we are talking the big Semana Santa week before Easter after all. But if it weren’t for the busload of teenagers on some kind of club trip, the crowd would have been about 20 total. And unlike at Chichen Itza, no vendors on the pathways spoiling the ambiance.
But was it worth checking out? Absolutely! See the pics here for a taste, but this is a grand site that was active for a good 400 years, so there is a lot to see. While there is no grand pyramid in the middle, you can certainly climb enough steps to qualify for the day’s cardio exercise. Once you get to the top, you get the shrub and jungle panorama to remind you why there are still places like this that haven’t even been found yet.
Next time you end up in the Yucatan, try something different. Spend the night in Valladolid (where we paid $60 for a room at the best hotel in town) and feel like an explorer in Ek Balam. Here’s some more info on the site from Yucatan Today.